Friday, August 19, 2011

The Arkansas Problem...

Today, I watched live streaming video of the most vile and corrupt people I've ever seen...but before I get into that, here's a bit of background.

I was about 16 years old, laying in bed watching television one night, when a documentary came on. I had been waiting to see it, because I had previously seen where the seminal heavy metal band Metallica had allowed their music to be used in a feature film.

I was (and still am) a fan of Metallica, and this case was something I hadn't heard about, so I watched it. I thought it was supposed to be a work of fiction. By the time I had finished watching "Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills", I damned near vomited.

Black t-shirts? Check.
Fan of heavy metal music? Check.
Distrust of our (in)justice system? Check.
Social misfits? Check.

Well, that pretty much describes me at the time. I couldn't help but wonder how completely and totally screwed up our justice system could be, when three people could be convicted of the most heinous crime on the books in Arkansas...with the only "evidence" being other peoples' opinions of their character, and an error-filled confession coerced from a mildly-retarded teenager who had been interrogated by the police for 12 hours.

I've been following this case since then, and cannot fathom how this could have happened.

One man was told that he might possibly be paroled from his "Life plus 40 years" sentence, but would be so old that his life would be meaningless. He'd be too old to drive, too old to work, too old to screw, and too old to do just about anything else that a man might want to do while living in the free world.

Another was told that, no matter how old he lived to be, his "Life without parole" sentence would mean he would never again breathe another breath as a free man. The entirety of his life's remainder would be spent behind bars. Every waking moment of his life would be spent locked in a cage, until the day when that life finally came to an end.

The third was told that, unlike the other two, he would not be spending his time in prison wondering how old of a man he would be when he finally succumbed to natural causes, because the State of Arkansas was going to speed up that process for him. He would be strapped to a gurney and pumped full of poison, killed at the hands of the state.

The years have progressed. The documentary filmmakers have produced two additional works about the case. New evidence has been submitted to the courts. A hearing was set for December, in light of evidence that DNA had been tested and found to not match the victims or the convicted...meaning someone else was there at the scene of the crime.

Yesterday, Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, and Jason Baldwin walked out of a "Supermax" prison in Arkansas, while in the custody of sheriff's deputies. Today, they walked out of a county court house as free men.

Sadly, however, they have received no justice and may have to keep fighting for the rest of their lives if they ever want to see it.

As part of an agreement reached with state prosecutors and the defense team, prosecutors agreed to a sentence of "time served" in exchange for a guilty plea to a lesser charge. These men are still convicted felons, and branded as murderers.

The lead prosecutor for the state actually had the balls to stand up this morning in front of television cameras, and claim that this was done to preserve the state's money. Really? "The state" tried to execute one man, and imprison two more for the rest of their lives, for crimes they didn't commit. You're certain that they are guilty of sexually mutilating and murdering three innocent eight year old children, but you think "justice" is served by letting these men go?

Or, could it be, that the prosecutor is a useless excuse for a human being? He's more worried about the state being deprived of tax dollars for wrongfully trying to kill one man, and wrongfully imprisoning two more? If you know you have a case, what are you afraid of?

Sir, you are a chickenshit. You should be publicly beaten for not immediately acknowledging that the State of Arkansas screwed up severely, apologizing to these men (and their attorneys, and their families, and also the families of the victims for not seeking to find the people responsible for the crime), and then showing them where to fill out the forms for the millions of dollars worth of compensation you owe them.

Instead, you had the balls to stand up on national television and say that you "pray these men have been rehabilitated". Are you kidding me?

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